Help with Photoshop Canvas Size and Resolution

  • So I used to be an oil painter, and I would always do my paintings at 16in x 22in. They were medium size canvases and it took about a week to finish one single painting. I don't oil paint anymore because now I'm going digital. I started my 1,000 painting challenge a month in a half ago, and I keep debating what canvas size should I paint on. My first 2 paintings were painted digitally on an 11in x 11in canvas with 300dpi. However, I didn't really like painting that big because it takes FOREVER to finish one painting since its such a big canvas. On top of that I have to scale my small brushes up in size since the canvas is so big and I don't like that. So I started painting my 3rd painting at 7in x 7in with 300dpi. Its smaller than 11x11in, but I can finish my paintings faster, and I don't have to scale my brushes up anymore. However, I still feel like the canvas size is too big, so i want to scale down a little more.

    This is where I'm over thinking everything. I'm kind of in a Goldilocks and the three bears situation where I'm trying to find a middle ground of quality vs quantity. My art is already quality. I know that, but I don't like painting big. Okay, so scale down in size. But if I do that my paintings won't be big in canvas size. But I'll be able to finish paintings faster since I've got 1,000 paintings to do. Sigh. IDK. I just don't want to paint so big, but I want to my art be big in size to be able to print onto products like phone cases, bed duvets, skateboards, handbags, and my artbook, etc. Sigh. I think I'm just not understanding dpi and canvas size. This DPI is throwing me off. Its werid. I don't like painting at 300 dpi. I feel more comfortable when my dpi is set to 150 dpi.

    Sigh. I almost want to just become a vector artist and not a digital artist so that I can scale my art up easily and not worry about resolution, dpi, and canvas size. But vector art is hard and I won't get the texture I'm getting here. Gahhh! I'm over thinking everything.

    My question is what canvas size and dpi do you paint at and why? Does it take forever? Are you comfortable painting big or small?


  • @moonaticdestiny I generally work on an A4 canvas at 150 dpi to block out/sketch then upscale to 300 dpi to do the final polish & detail. Sketching at 150 dpi lets you lay down big broad strokes with speed and fluidity. Once you know where the detail has to go, the upscale gives you the resolution to make it pop.

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    I usually start off with 6in by 6in to get my rough idea down. Once I get that, I will scale it up. If I know I want to print a piece but not sure how large I want to print it i will make my longest side 20in and work at 300dpi. If I know what size it will be printed at, I will size it just right. I never zoom in more then 100%. I will mainly work at 60% and then zoom into 100% to clean it up.

  • You want to work larger than you need. You can always scale your work down you can’t however scale up since you lose quality.

    DPI is dots per inch and is a printing term for the number of physical dots per square inch when printing. PPI is pixels per inch and describes the resolution of an electronic image or square pixels in a square inch of an image.

  • @jimsz I just took Marco Bucci's painting 3 and he teaching the exact opposite increasing resolution as you go and he starts with an extremely small canvas. This way work well if you are working the entire image at one time but not if you finish one area at a time

  • What I’ve been currently working at is 11" x 17" & 11" x 14" 400-450 dpi. Now I haven’t been working with digital very long, but digital feels very natural to me. I’ve found that I enjoy working in a slightly larger area. And for me, having a higher resolution gives me a bit of freedom in my work. Weather I want to enlarge and crop an area, without having to go over my work again (that’s frustrating) or I think a particular piece would look good on a "skateboard or bed duvets". Having more DPI just gives me options, but I’m not doing 1000 paintings either.

  • I will echo what others have said. After watching a lot of tutorials and/or articles from other digital artists, it seems like many of them start smaller and at lower resolutions and then increase the size and resolution when they start rendering it out.

  • @tessaw I think you're right because I hate sketching and painting at such a larger canvas. I never finish since the canvas is so big and I have to fill it up. I like sketching small so it makes sense to start off small, render out your painting, and then increase the canvas.

    @rcartwright I know that guy! I'm gonna watch all his youtube video right now.

    @jimsz I get that. You want to have the highest size of your artwork since you can scale down but never up. However, I can't sketch and paint at such a big canvas size. Its doesn't feel right and natural for me.

    After reading everyones comments, heres what I have to say and where I'm at. I need to finish paintings, and I need to get them out there. I say that for a couple of reasons. I'm doing 1,000 paintings, so I need to be moving onto the next painting. I can't be spending days or weeks on one painting when I've got 999 paintings more to go. I need to finish. I think Jake Parker says you need to finish work and get it out there because its not going to be perfect. You can't be focusing on this one single artwork and perfect it because in a year youre not going to like it. So finished, not perfect. Move on to the next artwork.

    I also say that because of speed. Gary Vaynerchuk talks about speed. Micro Speed, Macro Patience. You need to get faster. You need to be putting out content and develop a system that allows you to work faster and get things done. I can't be doing 1 painting a week. Thats really slow. I gotta paint, make it look good, put it out, and move on to the next painting. I gotta build this portfolio and speed is going to help get me there.

    I want quality. I want my art to be at its highest canvas size. However, I want to put out more paintings. Thats called quantity. So to do that I need to paint smaller, not bigger. So that means sacrificing quality. Downgrading my canvas size and removing that quality. Painting smaller now allows me to put out more paintings, but it doesn't feel like I sacrificed quality because my artwork/concepts ARE quality. And its the market and my viewers who determine whats quality.

    I think this is the path I'm going to have to go with because I don't like painting big, I've got 1,000 paintings to paint, I need to get faster, and I need to be finishing quality artwork. Its that Goldilock analogy. I don't want to paint too small, nor too big. I want something in the middle.

    @TessaW @rcartwright what other digital artist have you both been learning from? I really want to learn who you've been learning from.

  • if you are planning on changing the canvas size or dpi it should be after blocking out and before finishing the sketch.
    I usually work on A4 size and 300 dpi. I start out with the canvas zoomed out so it feels much smaller than it really is. after the blocking and underpainting I can make it 100% to see better and add the necessary details. I'm more comfortable working small but if I want to print it then I have to work in the right size and dpi.

    you can find online templates to work in the right size for the products you want to print. 150 dpi is not good enough for any printed item that you will see close up, but it's good enough for roll-ups and big banners.

    can you change your goal so it's a 1000 digital sketches and a 100 digital paintings? like you said in your other post, you need to keep moving and we learn a lot while doodling and sketching on A4 paper with a pen and markers. this way you can create more sketches during the week, and may be 2 to 4 digital paintings a month, depends on the details in each.

    also if you love vector art, you can get Von Glitschka's textured brushes or create your own!

  • @moonaticdestiny The best in terms of no messing around knock out a super digital painting in minutes is Arron Blaise watch his dragon painting on youtube and you will get it. I would say watch Will Terrys 10 step digital painting video but remember his style is time consuming, also watch the video he does with Jim Madsen that is another artist with a locked down process. For me Marco Bucci is number one because his abstract style is something I very interested in (my favorite painter is Richard Schmid) and the 10 minute videos on youtube are great

  • @heidi-ahmad

    I don't block out or do any underpainting. I just sketch and then start painting just because I already know how the painting is supposed to look like and where the color is supposed to go.

    I do want to print my paintings. I want to create something called a MoonBox and inside have several products that have my artwork branded on to them. So a MoonBox of my first painting, End of the Rainbow. I would put in the box an art print, a poster, a sticker sheet, a pot of gold enamel pin, a bookmarker, etc. Those all require specific canvas sizes to be done at and if I'm painting really small its not going to look good when its printed.

    If I went vector I wouldn't have to worry about canvas size and resolution at all. At all, at all and it would make my life so much easier instead of overthinking all this. I've been eyeing those illustrator brushes for THEEE longest time. I love Von Glitschka. I just never bought them because I don't have money to spare right now, and this product isn't for cs5 so I can't use them. I did, however, purchase other "painterly" brushes by the artifex. They're ok I just always raged quit adobe illustrator just cuz its hard to get the same style using his vector brushes. Its so much easier to paint in photoshop than in illustrator because I'm able to blend pixel easily and get the effect and colors I want.

    I used to be an oil painter, and now I'm going digital. I'm channeling everything I know about oil painting into digital art and its pretty easy to make good art digitally. At least, for me. Those vector brushes by Von are exactly the same style as my style. My style is just painterly brush strokes, outlines, and small paint spatters. I think they'd be very fitting for me.

    I think I should work small, sketch out my painting, paint, finish that painting, and then bring it into adobe illustrator and then vectorize it using von glitschkas brushes. That way I finish paintings fast, use those paintings as my finished paintings for my 1,000 paintings, and then create a vectorized version of those paintings in illustrator for print later. That I can put out paintings fast but create a vectorized version of those painting for print later becuase I really want to brand my art on to products. I want to take those 1,000 paintings and brand them onto shower curtains, bed duvets, posters, billboards, phone cases, t-shirts, etc. I need to go vector so I think I should have 2 styles. A photoshop style and an illustrator style. BUT paint small in photoshop so I can put out paintings fast.

    Also, I really like that goal you suggested because I hate starting a new painting, start the sketching, and then cringe when I have to start coloring the painting. I feel like I shouldn't start any new paintings at all. I should sketch first and knock out several sketches for all the painting ideas I have in mind. Set them aside and then move on to coloring one painting at a time. That way I'm doing more sketching than painting and getting all my ideas out. I think that'd be a great series for my youtube channel where I showcase the sketching process of all the painting ideas I have.


  • If you just go straight to rendering after your sketch, then I would ignore my comment. I was meaning: do your sketching and rough under-painting smaller and then make it larger before starting on rendering.

    That being said, I'm glad you started this thread, because I like hearing about digital sizes as I am personally still a bit confused about it as it pertains to printing. I've found my computer doesn't like it when I paint too big, so I'm wondering if people just have better computers than me? Probably.

    As far as digital artists I learn from. . . honestly too many to mention? I've picked up tips and tricks slowly over the years, so it's hard to pin point who exactly influenced my digital painting as it stands now. . . and I've been focused more on learning art fundamentals more than anything else in recent years, where the focus is not so much on digital techniques. Sorry I can't be of more help in that area, but it seems like you've got your style and technique down on lock already!

    Just followed you on instagram and am looking forward to seeing your challenge unfold.

  • Hi. First, is not enough power to make complex vector art. Vectors are instructions from a given point, every change in your painting need more instructions, that's the reason they can be scaled infinitely. But you only can make simple things with them. You have to simplify your art a lot if you want to make vector art.

    Second, yes, you don't understand resolution. 300 dpi, 150 dpi... they can be representing exactly the same archive. The resolution is the Wide and High number. The size of your archive is for example 1500 Wide per 1500 High, that means that you have an archive with 2.250.000 pixels. That archive you can set it to 600 dpi or 1 dpi and that only change the size in which is represented in your screen but not the quality. The archive is not changed in any way, only the metadata that tells how is going to be represented on your screen at a given scale like 100%. for example the 600 dpi at 100% is going to be represented smaller than if were set to 300 dpi but you can put it at 200% and then you have the exact same size and quality.

    You have to know what do you need. If your art is going to be printed, at what size? Depending for what purpose the art is meant to be at a near distance or from far away? in reason of that you decided the resolution you need, for example, If you need to print the art at 150 dpi and your art is going to be printed at 12 inches per 12 inches you have a 144 square inches work per 150 dpi equal to 21.600 pixels. You need to create a canvas of 10800 Wide per 10800 High. To be safe some artist doubles the size or incremented a little.

    Don't confuse neither DPI and PPI. DPI is the amount of dots that are going to be represented in an inch of your painting when shows a 100% on your screen. PPI is the number of pixels that a screen can represent

  • @zombie-rhythm Have you ever looked at Michael Austin's work he works in vectors and they are extremely complex, he paints with vector strokes just like he was using PS all you need is a good computer. You can do way more than just simplified stuff with vectors if you have proper training and skills

  • @tessaw Yes!! I'm so happy you said that because thats exactly how I feel. Like, how are these people painting so big? Do they have a better computer than I do? Like, how?! The highest I can paint is 11inx11in at 300 dpi so when I hear people say they paint at A4 300 dpi I'm like I can't. Or even A3. I can't paint that big. I just can't. My computer lags like crazy. I even wonder if artist who have those wacom cintiqs, are they built to handle big canvas sizes that they're able to paint so big or what?

    I was sketching at a big canvas size. Now I've learned not to do that. Now I should sketch on a small canvas size and then scale the canvas up to start rendering. Digital art is new to me so I kind of feel stupid now sketching at a big canvas size. I'm learning.

    I see. You've been so helpful though. Thank you.

    Yes! I do I have a style and technique! I found my style in 1 year while I was oil painting. I really want to make a youtube series on how I found my style and share with other artist to show them what I did to find it. That way they can take what I did and apply it on them selves to find their style.

  • @rcartwright said in Help with Photoshop Canvas Size and Resolution:

    Michael Austin's

    I think my art is VERY simple. Like its just simple shapes. Nothing complex. The vector artist Orlando Arocena, his art is very, VERY complex. Check him out. Nothing compared to my style. I think I just need to ground myself and learn to recreate my art in illustrator.

  • @rcartwright Hey, thanks for getting back at me. Thank you for all those wonderful suggestions. I'm so anxious to learn. 🙂

  • @rcartwright
    I disagree 🙂

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @moonaticdestiny and @TessaW for large size and lag on computer it comes down to your settings in Photoshop, the textures in the brush, and of course the computer. I am working on a piece right now I started at 6in x 6in, once I liked the sketch i sized up to 18in x 24in 300dpi. I can paint with little lag unless I make my brush large and make a bunch of quick strokes. It takes a few seconds to catch up. But over all I have no lag. I use a surface book and I allow photoshop to use 60% of my computer with 4 cache levels and only 30 history states.

  • @moonaticdestiny I used to be an oil painter too! 😃

  • Alright. So an update with this whole canvas size and my process. My solution was to sketch small a concept for a painting in photoshop , paint that concept in photoshop so that I have a finished painting, then bring it into illustrator where I would then vectorize what I painted. I'm vectorizing it so I can scale it up however big I want and not worry about the canvas size. I started vectorizing my first painting and its taking forever. Its taking forever because I'm trying to recreate this "oil paint canvas" style of mine in illustrator using these canvas and painterly illustrator brushes I purchased online. On top of that my Illustrator is lagging when I start to apply these canvas/painterly textures. I think thats common when you add texture in illustrator so now I'm slowing down even more.

    I want to do vector because I want to put my paintings on to products but its hard recreating my style in Illustrator. I feel like I should not recreate my style. I should just simplify my style with out the texture. Just create basic shapes with gradients and strokes because thats what my style is. I can maybe add the paint spatter but these painterly brush strokes and canvas textures I can't. Like, I'm not going to be able to recreate it in Illustrator. I'm over thinking it, and I'm wasting so much time. I think I should just simplify my style in Illustrator. However, theres a part of me that REALLY wants those textures and a part of me doesn't like my style simplified without those textures..........gahhhh! I'm overthinking it!

    I almost just want to paint really small in photoshop and not worry about putting my paintings on to products or recreating them in illustrator. Like, I'm tired of seeing illustrator all day. Its really is a battle of quality vs quantity. Painting in photoshop is so much easier than recreating my art in Illustrator. So much easier but I hate painting big.

    Heres an image of me recreating my art. The left is the finished painting done in photoshop. The right is me trying to recreate my painting in illustrator. I think I'm going to stop with illustrator for now. I'm going to go back and just paint small in photoshop. Maybe I'll come back and vectorize my art.

    @heidi-ahmad I'm really happy I didn't buy those Von G painterly brushes. I'm like stressing out with the painterly brushes I have right now.

    0_1534223224409_01 - End of the Rainbow WIP v3 copy.jpg

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